cj#1119> Tom Atlee re: “Escape from the Matrix”


Richard Moore

Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 14:14:31 -0700
To: •••@••.••• (undisclosed list)
From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Expanded democracy as our "Escape from the Matrix"

Dear friends,

In the current issue of Whole Earth Review, Richard K. Moore
<•••@••.•••> has a powerful article entitled
"Escaping the Matrix"
.  I invite you to read the whole article but, because of
its length (about 14 pages), I'm not including it here.  It
is readily available through the above link.

Moore's article is powerfully clarifying.  I am sure, like
all clarifying articles, his vision is drastically
oversimplified.  This may cause you (as it did me) to resist
some of its message, thinking of it as "conspiracy thinking"
or "left-wing ranting".  But I want to pause a moment to
reflect on that.

I'd like to share what is perhaps the most useful lesson
I've learned from my study of holism:  Every article, book,
idea, person, culture, etc., has both gifts for us and
limitations.  There is no One Answer; there is always "more
to it than that."  Even the most valuable answers are only
approximations -- good, honest efforts initiated from a
single, broad perspective.  It is up to us to proceed
carefully -- to not throw the baby out with the bath water
-- to find and honor the gifts, whatever's there that we can
use to grow ourselves and help the world -- and to recognize
the limitations, not so much as fatal flaws, but as the
inevitable price of having any perspective at all.

And so it is with Moore's remarkable article.  There is a
deep gift of truth in the picture he paints.  Despite its
many limitations and exceptions, there is a pattern here
that we ignore at our peril -- the colonization of our lives
by institutions and systems greedy for the concentration of
wealth.  We need to deal with that, and soon.  Any serious
reflection will make that clear:  we will not be able to
create a decent world if we ignore this factor.

And yet other people have voiced this part of the truth
before.  So what's so special about Moore?  In my view, what
establishes Moore's ultimate legitimacy and contribution is
the solution he urges on us:  Evolving truly democratic
processes and systems capable of harmonizing the views and
interests of diverse citizens so they (we!) can co-create
livable societies that benefit them all.  Moore urges us to
build bridges, not burn them; to connect with our fellow
citizens, not defeat them.  In this mission, he has my full

A few books that offer tremendous insight in that effort are

- Charles Johnston's NECESSARY WISDOM, one of my first and
most powerful introductions to bridge-building between
seeming polarities, grounded in a philosophy of

- Mark Gerzon's A HOUSE DIVIDED, which describes "six belief
sytems struggling for America's soul" and then describes
dozens of people from each of those belief-system
subcultures who are trying to reach out to their fellows
from other subcultures.  (His upcoming THE DEMOCRACY
TOOLBOX, which I've seen in draft, will further advance our
skills in bridge-building.)

- Frances Moore Lappe and Paul Martin Du Bois' THE
QUICKENING OF AMERICA, which chronicles an explosion of
collaborative democracy in our midst, and offers "how-to"
lessons learned in communities throughout America.

Beyond these, I (not so humbly) believe that many of the
leading edge democratic theories, forms and processes we
need are explored and described on my website, particularly
http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_Index.html .  It is
through these innovations -- particularly citizen consensus
councils http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-citizenCC.html --
that I met Richard Moore online.  We'll soon be having
face-to-face conversations with a number of other people
interested in these issues.

All that said, here's my own summary of Moore's article.  If
you find it at all interesting, do read his full article
(linked above), and even some of his excellent references. 
They paint a compelling picture of what we need to do and
why, and the challenges ahead.

Peace to us all.



_ _ _ _

Richard K. Moore's "Escaping the Matrix" and the Evolving
Global Dynamics of Concentrated Wealth

In "Escaping the Matrix" (Whole Earth Magazine #101, Summer
2000) Richard K. Moore writes about the movie The Matrix as
the modern version of Plato's Cave or The Wizard of Oz
metaphor:  The world we think we're living in is not the
world that really exists.  Something profoundly different is
going on -- in this case, the arrangement of world affairs
for the more efficient concentration of wealth.  The social,
economic, political and moral realities we think we're
living in are composed for us and wrapped around us by elite
classes and institutions intimately involved in that
wealth-concentrating project.  They know how to make us
support their work on their own behalf, at our expense.

"From the time of Columbus to 1945," writes Moore, "world
affairs were largely dominated by competition among Western
nations seeking to stake out spheres of influence, control
sea lanes, and exploit colonial empires." The PR spin on
this (the Matrix-like story) was that Europeans were
bringing civilization and righteousness to heathens and
"underdeveloped nations".  But, behind the scenes, there was
an evolving, mutually beneficial marriage between the
interests of the Western nations (represented by
governments, large institutions, mass media and a
well-manipulated citizenry), on the one hand, and the
interests of capital (represented by wealthy elites and
corporations), on the other.

Moore notes that America's world dominance after World War
II ("Pax Americana") shook the foundations of that marriage
arrangement.  Less competition among nation-based
capitalists was needed.  America took increasing
responsibility for the world-wide interests of ALL
capitalists through a)  using dictators and "Western style
democracies" (heavily influenced by wealthy elites) to keep
raw materials flowing out of, and Western goods flowing
into, Third World countries; b)  using international
financial systems and "foreign aid" to build the
infrastructure and ensure the allegiance of local
powerholders needed to support Western exploitation and c) 
using the US military and multi-national forces (through the
UN and NATO) to "contain the spread of communism" and nip in
the bud any threat to corporate interests.

The Matrix-like story used to describe all this was that the
U.S. was "the world's policeman" maintaining order in "the
international community" and "coming to the assistance" of
nations that were being "undermined by Soviet influence."

For over twenty years this worked like a charm, largely
thanks to the general prosperity of Western nations.  "A
rising tide," said the spin doctors, "lifts all boats."  But
in the sixties and seventies -- despite widespread
prosperity -- anti-war (especially anti-Vietnam War) and
civil rights movements "declared the reality of exploitation
and suppression both at home and abroad," and the
environmental movement was born.  "These developments
disturbed elite planners," writes Moore, quoting a
remarkable 1975 "Report of the Trilateral Task Force on
Governability of Democracies" -- particularly a section
written by a still-influencial Harvard professor, Samuel P.
Huntington, who said that democratic societies "cannot work"
unless the citizenry is "passive."  The "democratic surge of
the 1960s," wrote Huntington, represented an "excess of
democracy," which must be reduced if traditional government
by "the private sector's 'Establishment'" was to be

Elite Western strategists began to conclude that Western
national prosperity and nationalism were no longer so vital
to their interests. These formerly vital ingredients
apparently didn't preclude protests and they actually
undermined international competitiveness.  For example, a
re-industrialized postwar Japan was becoming an important
international competitor, thanks largely to its lower wages,
and so Western capitalists were inclined toward lower wages
in Western countries (e.g., in the form of an increasing
"temp" labor force).  In addition, Western governments were
increasingly being used to regulate corporate operations and
redistribute wealth.  It was time to go truly international.

Their two-pronged strategy was to weaken national
governments on the one hand, while empowering transnational
governing bodies that served elite interests, on the other. 
The first wave of this initiative was launched during the
Reagan-Thatcher years:  The stripping down of government
services, regulations and public infrastructure -- and the
power of unions -- and transfering the resultant wealth and
advantage to corporations and wealthy elites.  All this was
legitimized by a Matrix-like story about "reducing taxes,"
"getting government off people's backs" and "liberalized
free market economics."  "Soon," says Moore, "British and
American populations were beginning to appaud the
destruction of the very democratic institutions that
provided their only hope of participation in the political

The fall of the Soviet bloc coincided with the proliferation
of multinational corporations, so all stops were taken off
the globalization of corporate power.  The nineties saw the
expansion of powerful free-trade treaties (NAFTA, WTO) "to
remove all political controls over domestic and
international trade and commerce" and the increasing use of
IMF (International Monetary Fund) loans to compel
non-Western debtor nations to reorganize themselves to the
benefit of Western investors.  If military intervention
became necessary, it was justified as "humanitarian" to
quell "ethnic conflicts" often stirred up by Western
interests, or as part of the international "war on drugs." 
The Matrix story evolved in tandem with the evolving

To the extent domestic prosperity was no longer central to
the elite vision, the "government by consensus" it made
possible was replaced as well.  "Activism and protests were
to be expected" even in the best of times, but elite
planners knew dissent would increase as the erosion of
prosperity, the environment and community accompanied
all-out corporate globalization.  This required new forms of
two tried-and-true social management tools:  a
semi-militarized police force and "divide-and-conquer."

We see the new police strategies and equipment in Seattle,
D.C. and the national political party conventions, as well
as in the war-zone policing of inner cities.  We see
increasing police violation of rights, rapidly swelling
prison populations (remember, American prisoners loose their
citizenship rights forever, and are increasingly used as a
cheap labor pool), and the propagandistic quality of many TV
and movie police dramas.

And we see what Moore calls "programmed factionalism," "the
covert guiding of various social movements" -- especially
fundamentalist religious movements.  "The collective energy
and dedication of 'true believers' makes them a potent
political weapon that movement [and elite political] leaders
can readily aim where needed."  Elections cease to be about
real-world issues of political and economic power and
well-being, but about abortion, drugs, and prayer.  The
matrix story paints the competition among factions as the
essence of democracy, whereas that competition becomes, in
practice, a playground tussle distracting citizens from the
ongoing centralization of wealth and power being carried out
by both liberal and conservative leaders alike, whether
Democrat or Republican, Labor or Tory.

What is the way out of this predicament and its illusory
Matrix-like reality?  Moore suggests that we must realize
that "left and right are enemies only in the matrix.  In
reality we are all in this together, and each of us has a
contribuiton to make toward a better world."  Contrary to
the matrix myth, capitalism is not essential, nor is
centralized state socialism its only alternative.  "Free
enterprise, private property, commerce, banking,
international trade, economic specialization -- all of these
had existed for millennia before capitalism.  Capitalism
claims credit for modern prosperity, but credit would be
better given to developments in science and technology....
In fact, there are infinite alternatives to capitalism, and
different societies can choose different systems, once they
are free to do so."

"In order for the movement to end elite rule and establish
livable societies to succeed, it will need to evolve a
democratic process, and to use that process to develop a
program of consensus reform that harmonizes the interests of
its constituencies. In order to be politically victorious,
it will need to reach out to all segments of society and
become a majority movement. By such means, the democratic
process of the movement can become the democratic process of
a newly empowered civil society. There is no adequate theory
of democracy at present, although there is much to be
learned from history and from theory. The movement will need
to develop a democratic process as it goes along, and that
objective must be pursued as diligently as victory itself."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tom Atlee  *  The Co-Intelligence Institute  *  Eugene, OR

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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